The influence of ink and color paintings in China art history

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Influence of the Chinese Ink and Color Paintings Chinese painting is among the oldest artistic cultures in the world that has lasted for more than 3000 years. Chinese artists used brush and ink on silk or paper to make paintings that have left the world astounded thousands of years later. What is even shocking is that these paintings were made without alterations or corrections since brushstrokes were inerasable. It is no wonder that these paintings had major influence on Japanese and modern art paintings.
Chinese influence on Japanese paintings is evident in the latter’s earliest paintings. During the Heian era (794-1185), monks en route to Japan carried with them Buddhist works and Chinese paintings. The paintings were an instant hit in the Japanese art world and subsequently led to art revolution in the country. To distinguish them from their own art, yamato-e, the Japanese referred to Chinese paintings as kara-e. During the collapse of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century, many monks fled to Japan and set up art schools, key among them being the Obaku sect. What culminated was a revolutionized Japanese artistry that had a rich Chinese influence. (Sullivan, 2009)
However, Chinese influence does not end with the Obaku monks. Another Chinese painting tradition emerged in the 18th and 19th century known as literati painting. This form of art emphasized individualized art that led to self-cultivation and personal expression as opposed to commercialized painting done for profit. Nakabayshi Chikuto, a literati pioneer in Japan criticized the art culture in Nagasaki, for it was profit oriented. Literati art was also very popular in the country.
At the international scene, Chinese art has been doing extremely well especially in the western markets. This can be attributed to immigration of artists to western countries during Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. Prior to this uprising, Chinese paintings and art were not properly established in the west, due o the fact that the country was locked from foreigners. Currently, Chinese art is among the most revered in the world. Artists concentrate on themes that are centered on their rich exotic culture, which has increased their popularity in the western world. It is worth noting also that most artist have adopted literati form of art to distinguish their art from the rest.
‘Admonitions of the instructress to the court ladies’ by Gu Kaizhi, is one such painting that has had a tremendous impact in the world of art. Dated back to the 8th century, this painting adopts the linear style of figure painting popular in the fourth century. Though two scenes are currently missing, the painting had nine scenes initially. It is a political parody that criticizes the immoral behavior of an empress while at the same time instructing ladies on correct behavior. Due to its popularity, many a powerful men in history were in possession of this portrait. This is evident by the number of seals and inscriptions on it. (China Online Museum, n.d.)
Another example of a Chinese painting that has been the center of marvel among art lovers is ‘Along the River during the Qingming Festival’ by Zhang Zeduan. The painting depicts the street scene during Qingming festival. Apart from that, it also shows the lifestyle of the people at the time, from their mode of dressing to their occupation. The right section shows the rural and underdeveloped areas of the town while the middle part showcases various businesses. The left part is the urban area and has a lot of economic activities happening within it. However, the main focus of the painting is at the Rainbow Bridge. This piece is among the most revered pieces of Chinese paintings and as such, many replicas have been made of the portrait. (China Online Museum, n.d.)
Chinese art is very rich culturally and historically. Through Chinese paintings, the world has been able to know about the cultural changes the people underwent as different dynasties came into power. With brush, ink and ink alone, the artists not only captured the outward appearance of things, but their inner essence and spirit. an art that has never been replicated before. As the world continues to marvel at these fine pieces of art, we hope that one day we will know how they were inspired to such great heights.
1. Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies. China Online Museum, n.d. web. April 15, 2015. lt.
2. Along the River During the Qingming Festival. China Online Museum, n.d. web. April 15, 2015. lt.
3. Chinese Painting. China Online Museum, n.d. web. April 15, 2015. lt.
4. Ledderose, Lothar. Chinese Influence on European Art, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries. n.d. web. April 15, 2015. lt.
5. Sullivan, Maurice. Continental Style: Chinese influence in Japanese Paintings. Honolulu Museum of Art, March 15, 2009. Web. April 15, 2015. lt.